The Story of TSM Reginald: Esports Trailblazer

Gaming Advice Apr 26, 2019 No Comments

“We’re not gonna be little children anymore, we’re gonna go into this as a job. We’re gonna take this seriously, and we’re gonna make it to the top.” (Casting) “At his prime he was definitely top 2. If not the best NA Midlaner, strictly because he was able to make these kind of calls that would win games.”

“If they go to playoffs then choke it’s on them, it’s on us, it’s on me.” (Casting) (Casting) “I find it absolutely unbearable for us to take anything below Top 2.” Back in 2009, a small indie game developer out of Santa Monica, California launched their inaugural game. It was called League of Legends: Clash of Fates, and among the first 100 people to ever play the game was a teenager by the name of Andy “Reginald” Dinh. And he didn’t like it.

“At that point, I thought the game was pretty bad to be honest. And so I actually quit the game because I came from Dota and there wasn’t lock-screen. I played League with lockscreen and I didn’t know I could unlock the screen, so I quit for a while and then I came back.” After that, Regi was hooked and while playing with his brother Dan, discovered that he had a natural talent for the game.

Together, the Dinh brothers founded a League of Legends community forum and educational website called solomid.net. While, the duo ran their website, they were also competing on a team called All or Nothing. But because Regi and his brother were both trying to call the shots, Regi decided to briefly play for Counter Logic Gaming. Feeling he could do better on his own, Regi decided it was time to start a team. “TSM was formed because, I was on CLG and then I wanted a team for myself, so I was like “Rainman join my team” and he was like “Oh I need a computer.”

I was like, “Yo I’ll get you a computer.” “So I liked bribed him to be my hoe.” And I guess I got Chaox cause he’s some Asian guy that wanted to be good at League of Legends.” After going through a few early roster iterations, the TSM line-up settled on Reginald, TheOddOne, Chaox, TheRainMan and Xpecial. The newly formed TSM would attend the first League of Legends World Championship in Jönköping, Sweden, where they would test their mettle against the best North America, Southeast Asia and Europe had to offer.

(Casting) Ultimately, TSM would place third at the event, losing to Against All Authority. (Casting) But that disappointment was short-lived when Riot announced Season 2 which would field a huge, international tournament circuit, with $5 million in prize pools and a chance to play at the Season 2 World Championship. Regi was thrilled and he wanted TSM to take the Season 2 circuit seriously, so he moved the team into a gaming house in Long Island, New York.

“It was not a calculated business decision at all, I just decided to do it out of passion. I wanted to compete and that passion was more important to me than anything, money, or whatever it was.” There, TSM would commit to a tougher scrim schedule and focus on League of Legends full-time. But the team’s top laner Christian “TheRainMan” Kahmann had different ideas. “For me as an individual player, I feel like just scrimming all day wasn’t making me better as a player. so that’s why I was feeling the way I was feeling.

And I think my skill had gone on a general decline.” “He didn’t want to do our practice schedule and he said it was a waste of time. He did not feel like we would be able to win Season 2 if we stuck with our practice schedule.”

Regi and RainMan had been friends, but if he wasn’t willing to put in the work, Regi and TSM would move on without him. Eventually, Marcus “Dyrus” Hill, who was living in the house at the time, replaced TheRainMan on the team. For Regi, pushing this new work ethic and moving forward with Dyrus was just the first of many points where he’d have to put his position as team owner ahead of his personal relationships. And with Dyrus, they found success almost immediately.

(Casting) As TSM scrimmed out of their Long Island gaming house, the rest of the nascent Western esports scene was developing around them. And Regi was beginning to cement himself as one of NA’s greatest mids. (Casting) “He was was definitely Top 2 if not the best NA mid laner strictly because he was able to make these kind of calls that would win games” (Casting) “We were together and we played as a team.” “And I attribute that to myself as I was able to pull everyone on the same page. five people doing something wrong is better than five guys doing five different things right” Driven by their fearless, shotcalling leader, TSM established themselves as North America’s premier LoL team. (Casting) TSM were riding high heading into the Season 2 World Championships, and as NA’s top seed, they guaranteed themselves a spot in the quarterfinals.

Their opponents? Korea’s Azubu Frost. Frost dominated group A and entered the quarterfinal showdown with supreme confidence. And while TSM fought valiantly over the course of two games, in the end, Frost proved to be too much for them to handle.

(Casting) But their defeat was not without controversy. “30 seconds into the game, when four of us are up at the tower, there was a pause. A very sudden pause by Azubu Frost. And ironically we were having problems with our chats, our chats weren’t working, our computers were slow […] We did not care, we just wanted to play.” And as soon as we saw that pause we were like “Holy shit, our plan might not work.” We looked straight to Azubu Frost and Chaox notices their players looking at our map, looking at our mini-map and they started talking.

There’s also proof in the replay that there’s been pings at dark areas where we’re standing where they have no vision. So that’s kind of shady, in my opinion.” Despite a frustrating end to season 2, TSM’s disappointment was short-lived as Riot announced that they would be moving to a league system in North America and Europe. And, as one of three NA teams to have attended the World Championship, TSM were guaranteed a spot in it.

They entered the Spring Split as one of the strongest teams in NA and immediately looked the part (Casting) But while they looked strong throughout the first five weeks, an increasingly large disconnect began to form between AD carry Chaox and Regi, resulting in Jason “WildTurtle” Tran being brought in as the new ADC. And his debut on the team was explosive. (Casting) (Casting) “Chaox you have something to answer right now because your replacement is doing a fantastic job.” (Casting) Though Regi and Chaox were close friends, Regi wanted a very specific culture in TSM. One that prioritized hard work above everything else.

“You don’t show up to work late constantly and expect to not get punished” “We have to set a precedent because if someone gets away with doing something that bad, it’s not good for anything. It’s just toxic.” Once again, Regi had to choose business over friendship, resulting in the team moving forward with Turtle instead of Chaox. While Turtle may not have been miles ahead of the other ADCs in NA at the time, his attitude better matched Regi’s vision for TSM. “He wasn’t that much better than Chaox, but because he took the game a lot more seriously at that point, he had a much higher ceiling and we were super excited about that.” but the reason why TSM got a lot better was by getting rid of Chaox because he wasn’t serious, it made everyone on our team be more serious.” With a boost from Turtle, TSM went on to win the first NA LCS split.

(Casting) But in the summer, a new obstacle emerged in the form of Cloud9. A plucky team of newcomers who had qualified through the first split of North American Challenger as Quantic Gaming. TSM were still a strong team that summer, but Cloud9 were a force, and when it came time for the playoffs, Regi and the rest of TSM were simply no match. (Casting) One disappointment would lead to another, as TSM bombed out of groups in the Season 3 World Championship. One of Regi’s lane opponents at Worlds was a young mid lane prodigy who was playing outside of Korea for the first time. Even then, it was obvious that against a player like Faker, Regi was out of his depth.

(Casting) “…his mechanical ceiling was so much higher than mine that I felt I was put in a position where I had to play to not lose and go even. It was one of the most uncomfortable playing experiences I’ve had in my career.” Reginald found himself in a difficult position. He was a veteran of the professional scene.

A pioneer that had helped pave the way for the Western esports and online neteller ie boom. But he was also a mid laner on a team that would only face stiffer competition heading into 2014. A mid laner who, unlike his rivals, owned his team. Because of the responsibilities that came with being a team owner, Regi couldn’t play as much as his players. He couldn’t throw himself into solo queue after scrims, he couldn’t fully dedicate himself to the game.

And he needed someone who could. “I’m Bjergsen. I heard you guys need a new mid laner.” “Who the fuck are you?” Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg had been making a name for himself in the European LCS as a bright star on a struggling Copenhagen Wolves roster. (Casting) Despite Bjergsen’s potential, the decision to go with him was a difficult one, especially because another, far more experienced mid laner was in the mix — Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez. Regi was his team’s primary shotcaller and he needed someone who could fill those shoes. So the choice to go with a young, relatively unproven mechanical genius over a proven, legend in xPeke was a risky one.

Initially Bjergsen struggled as the team’s in-game leader, but it was something Regi would help him learn over time. “Kind of just saying well it’s their fault because four of them are there.” “Then basically what you’re doing you’re not even shotcalling you’re just basically asking people questions” “Like should we fight or not?” “Like I never wanted to be the shotcaller it was put on me.”

“That’s an overall shotcall.” “That’s the shotcaller’s point they get all the information they need and then make a final decision.” “My problem there is no one made a call.

People should be actively feeding you information. and then you should make a final call.” After falling again to Cloud9 in the Spring 2014 finals, Regi made further roster changes, bringing in Amazing and Lustboy. And with their new jungler and support, TSM finally wrenched back the title from their rivals in the Summer.

(Casting) The team that had first stormed across the NA scene was almost unrecognizable, with Dyrus being the last old-guard member of the roster. But despite the new players, TSM still played, largely, like TSM. They focused around a strong, decisive mid laner and they used support from the jungle to take pressure off their other lanes. (Casting) At Worlds 2014, TSM would have to once again fight for their spot in the Top 8. But after making it through the group stage, they ran into one of the tournament favorites in Samsung White. “Undefeated records, KDA leaders in four out of the five positions on this team.”

TSM were clearly outmatched, and though they managed to get a win off the back off some questionable drafting by White, they found themselves overwhelmed. (Casting) Although 2014 ended in international disappointment for TSM, Regi was undergoing evolution as a team owner. 2015 saw the TSM brand expand into a number of games outside of League of Legends.

In January, TSM acquired the Danish CS:GO team that would go on to become Astralis. Featuring dupreeh, Xyp9x, device, cajunb and karrigan, the roster was a dominant force throughout much of the 2015 season, cementing themselves as one of the best teams in the world. It was Regi’s first big statement that TSM was interested in being more than just a League of Legends team. But Regi wasn’t satisfied with only dipping his toes into CS:GO. TSM would go on to pick-up players and rosters in Super Smash Bros, Call of Duty, Smite, Vainglory, Hearthstone and more recently, PUBG and Fortnite.

But as TSM the organization was expanding, its League of Legends team, had begun to falter. The team had suffered back-to-back defeats in the LCS at the hands of CLG in Summer 2015 and Spring 2016 After a disappointing early exit from Worlds 2015’s group stage, followed by Dyrus’ tearful departure at the end of that event, it was clear that something needed to change. The next year, would be a transitional one for TSM, as Reginald attempted to reinvent the championship winning formula. And by the summer of 2016, he’d done just that. Bjergsen, Doublelift, Hauntzer, Svenskeren, and Biofrost formed one of the most domestically dominant teams NA has ever seen. They adopted an aggressive practice schedule designed to mirror Korean teams, squeezing potential out of their new lineup.

And in NA, it worked. (Casting) But TSM’s reign wouldn’t extend beyond their own region, and the team fell short on the international stage again, (Casting) and again, (Casting) and again. (Casting) And throughout this testing period, Regi had to learn another tough lesson — how to take a step back from the team he’d poured his heart and soul into. Throughout TSM’s history, Regi had built up a reputation for inserting himself into the team when things got tough. Most notably in 2015, when he took over as head coach — enforcing his philosophies about how a team should be run.

“Although you know, the community and everyone blames the ‘Hey you know Reginald only steps in because he wants to get all the spotlight around his team,’ that’s actually not the case. I’m stepping in because I find it absolutely unbearable for us to take anything below Top 2.” In most of these instances, Regi got the result he wanted. But, over time, it became clear that he needed to have faith in the team and staff that he’d built, in the empire he’d helped to create. When Regi stepped in, it could hurt his coach’s authority, and coaching infrastructure was becoming a bigger part of the LCS. And it’s a lesson he appeared to learn.

In the 2018 Spring Split, TSM struggled to adapt to a new roster, and eventually was eliminated in the playoff quarterfinals after a tough regular season. (Casting) Regi, though supportive of his players and staff, let the split play itself out. Regi’s maturation from a teenaged League of Legends enthusiast to the owner of one of the biggest esports brands in the world had given him a platform.

And during an interview in 2016, he used that platform to highlight the risks of running a League of Legends franchise and how the majority of the teams were not making money from their LCS ventures. “It’s just an unstable environment overall and I would say it’s really volatile for the organizations and the players. And like if you want to be a news anchor you put time into it you slowly improve it over the years and by the time you’re in it for 20 years you become an absolute star and you’re not nervous in front of a camera anymore. I kind of want that to be like my career in esports where I’m investing into something stable.” “And I think it’s just a combination of the lack of revenue and also how unstable the patches are that really makes things volatile in terms of the investment perspective.” After Regi’s interview, Riot co-founder Marc “Tryndamere” Merill took to reddit with a now infamous response that entirely missed the point that Regi had been attempting to make. The resulting backlash towards Merill and Riot from the community led to a letter signed by most LCS team owners, asking for a new system.

And, by June 2017, Riot announced a new, franchised system in North America. With multi-million dollar buy-ins, infrastructure and revenue sharing, the new NA LCS has opened a debate about what a modern esports league should look like. It’s a big step for the scene, and a big step for esports. Although the conversation about franchising was no doubt happening for some time, behind the scenes for some time, the public push on its behalf came in part because of Regi. “There is kind of a difference in public perception vs the real Regi.

I’ve seen him go out of his way to take care of players and also set the industry standard for player treatment.” From the kid who just wanted to create a community around League of Legends, to one of the most influential owners in a new, franchised era, Regi has come a long way. There’s no question that Reginald was in the right place, at the right time. That he got to know the right people.

But there’s also no question that he worked harder, that he hustled more, and that he helped to build the Western esports scene around him. That’s the thing about Regi, and about TSM. You can love them, or not. You can cheer for them, or not.

But in esports, results are ultimately what matter. And you can’t argue with their results. Thanks for watching. If you want more great content just like this, be sure to hit the subscribe button.

Gwendolyn Franklin